>When I was in high school I knew this guy, SS. SS had a King of the Geeks thing going on for him. Tall, distinctive bouncy walk that CC described recently as a “hunker,” (though not in reference to SS). He would wear bright Hawaiian shirts and you could tell it was him even from over a block away. He had more games than everyone else I knew combined.
I used to go to church with SS, even though I was (and am) agnostic, unable to believe in anything that doesn’t have evidence I can experience. I believe the sun will rise tomorrow because I have experienced it so many times. I believe my parents love me because of how often they have told me. I believe in things presented to me simply. That is to say, I didn’t believe in his god because I never had proof of it presented to me simply. But then I never had proof against it presented to me simply either.
Church was a brilliant spectacle. It was a small Baptist church with a pastor who had an undergraduate degree in theater. She put on shows for us. We talked about simple, basic things. We sang. After church, which I rather diligently went to every Sunday, I’d spend a bit of time talking to MP–SS’s mom who would also go.
At that point in my life, I spent a lot of time at SS’s house, talking to him, hanging out, playing games, fighting the cat, poking about the garden, being really ridiculously hot during the summers, and trying to talk to MP and MS–his other parent.
MP and MS really brought out everything that was awkward and teenage about me. They were some of the few people in my life who I -really- wanted to like me. I wanted them to refer to me with affection and amusement–the way they described someone to me as “brilliant and completely unaware of this fact,” smiling as they said this. Around them, I’d fall over words, I’d not know what to say. Other adults–who were really just people to me–would find me charming and talkative, but around MP and MS, I would stutter and stumble over every syllable, sentence, and concept.
You see, SS’s parents were cool.
Really, really cool.
I -dreamed- about being as cool as they were when I grew up. I would fantasize about this the some way some people would fantasize about their wedding or college. In my little fantasies I would be an equal and I was just as cool as they were.
On Friday night, they were in town. Politely, they invited me to a little party they were having. This blew my mind.
The last time I was in Philadelphia, I tried, rather actively, to see them and it never quite worked out. After returning to Somerbridge, I emailed MS and he never responded. Being the bundle of insecurity I am, obviously, I concluded, they didn’t like me, or want to see me, or talk to me. These fevered visions of them sitting down in the morning to have coffee haunted me when I let my mind drift too far into thinking about how I didn’t see them. MS would say “So, m. called. She’s in town.” MP would frown–a formidable sight–and say something like “What’s she up to? Still a talentless, awkward hack?” And MS would nod. “I think I’ll just say we’re busy,” to which MP would nod and then comment about something wonderful in the paper.
Of course, I knew this isn’t really what happened, but I worry anyway.
On Friday night, I stood by their door, my pants wet and grit stained from the ride over.
MP let me in and explained a series of photographs they had on display. She sat down while people came to talk to her. MS sat in a chair and then stood, needing more of himself to tell us about his new book, about their research trip to Moscow, about a book he had just read. I just stood there, listening to everyone else, sitting and chatting, holding their wine glasses while I drank watered down limeaide.
It brought me back to being in high school, when I first met MP and MS and realized I wanted to be these people when I grew up. Friday night I realized I still want to be these people when I grow up. These wonderful, wild people with this wonderful, wild life. Much like in high school, I found myself unable to say anything interesting or contributive. For someone who likes to play at writer, I sure fail at communicating. I’m just -bad- at it. In my mind, I have little optimistic voices play over the New Yorker profile that will be done of me some day. In it, the writer will talk about how they were surprised when they met me: how someone who writes so brilliantly, who so cleanly evokes the spectrum of emotions, capturing a wonderful new reality of new ideas and humanistic understanding, can communicate so poorly when being asked questions. They’ll talk about how I ramble on senseless things, telling other people’s stories I can barely relate to the topic at hand. Breaking down into long awkward silences that are then punctuated by my inane explanations of what I had just been saying.
Other than being awkward, which I did a lot in high school, I listened, which I also did a lot in high school during the time I spent around MP, MS, and their friends. I listened. I listened to the way they both tell stories, the way they share information. How every word is not only meaningful, but usually brings a strong image. As they talked, I was able to, for a brief time, see the world from where they stood. I desperately wanted to be part of their world, a part of this thing and these lives that come together in ways I used to be a part of.
When I left, after a few late snippets of personal discussion and hugs, I biked home feeling strange in that way when you’re just not sure how you feel at all.